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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Are You Sure It's ADHD?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 30th 2011

Are You Sure It's ADHD?The following blog entry is based on a video here at Mental Help.Net and can be found at the following URL:

Ever hear the saying, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?" Ever hear the saying, "Sometimes a cigar is NOT just a cigar?" Which one is it?

Case in point: Everyone is telling you that your child is not doing well in school and the reason must be ADHD.

ADHD is known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are several varieties of the disorder. For example, a child may have ADD(Attention Deficit Disorder)either with or without hyperactivity. In ADHD, impulse control may or may not be the main problem. However, in all cases, there is an inability to concentrate or focus attention. This has a very detrimental impact on reading with comprehension and on learning in all subject areas. There is a tendency to view children with learning problems as having ADHD. Aside from the fact that there are other learning disabilities that may be more relevant to a particular child, there is also a chance that something else is at the root of the problem.

Recent developments, and they are controversial, report that for some children, what looks like ADD is really a problem with vision. There are a number of optometrists who now believe that some children who are learning disabled or diagnosed with ADHD may really have difficulty with their eyes working in coordination with one another. According to these optometrists, the inability of each of the eyes to work in coordination with one another affects the development of the perceptual motor skills necessary for learning to read and complete other academic tasks. They have developed a vision therapy that helps kids overcome some of these problems. Again, many in the medical establishment are cautious or dismissive of this treatment.

It is important to take note of the fact that because some children with learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders have vision problems, does not mean that this is true of all children with these problems. The correct diagnosis and treatment is what is most important. Having said that, it seems to me that there is no harm in looking into this possibility if you suspect ADHD.

Please be aware that the Academy of Pediatricians is very skeptical about vision being the cause of ADHD. In other words, while vision problems can interfere with learning for some children, it does not mean that this is true for all kids.

So, is a cigar a cigar or not? The fact is that proper testing must be used to determine what is and is not ADD, another learning problem or vision problems.

Always consult your pediatrician and get the proper referrals for evaluation and appropriate treatment. Specifically, there are doctors who specialize in vision and the treatment of children whose learning problems result from visual problems.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
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I Think - Cathy - Aug 31st 2011

I think that ADHD is just the fade diagnosis now.  Give a diagnosis.  Give a prescription.  Problem solved.  You see the same thing when you go to the doctor.  Have a headache?  Well, they start with a pain reliever.  Problem solved.  I find this interesting and I am guessing that over time, they will find other things that have also been masked by the diagnosis of ADHD.  Maybe, ADHD is actual a major clusters of different things.  I think they don't take the time to really look at the possibilities.  I have seen the schools over many years and they just want everyone to be a little clone that is easy to manage.  When I went to school and there were 30 kids in a room, the teacher still managed the classroom and made accommodations for those that learned differently, needed a little more attention, etc.  They desperately wanted us to medicate our son with Down syndrome because they said he was hyperactive.  We took him to the psychiatirst, explained what the school saw as "hyperactive" and our son actually did the same activities, moving around the office, carefully picking things up and looking at them, gentle, quiet - the psychiatrist determined our son was "interested in what was around him".  The school had also blamed me because maybe I was busy all the time doing things and the psychiatrist said "You're not causing him to be active, you are showing him that people have things that they have to do."  Anymore, the easiest route is taken but I see parents here, at every income level and intelligence level, starting to fight back and not make it easy.  The schools are pushing this all too often.  OK, so I never liked school and considered it a prison and I am filled with joy each year that school starts and I don't have to attend - glad the kids are not in school anymore too!

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